Ousmane Sembene’s Mandabi (1968): Criterion Blu-ray review

Ibrahim Dieng (Makhouredia Gueye) is at the mercy of a post-colonial society in Ousmane Sembene's Mandabi (1968)

Known as the “father of African cinema”, Ousmane Sembene’s films grapple with issues of identity in the complex social and political conditions of post-colonial Africa. His second feature (and first in colour) Mandabi (1968) is a tragi-comedy about a proud man clinging to an outmoded patriarchal role whose life is upended when a nephew working in France sends him a money order for 25,000 francs.

Two swansongs

Nothing goes right on board Stan's inherited yacht in Leo Joannon's Atoll K (1960)

A pair of Blu-rays from England showcase the final works of major artists who were considered at the time to be in decline: Laurel and Hardy’s last feature, Atoll K (dir. Leo Joannon, 1951) is a bittersweet mess which captures the Boys’ enduring charm while making their mortality all too clear, while Fritz Lang’s The Thousand Eyes of Dr. Mabuse (1960) comes full circle by reviving his Weimar criminal mastermind in a Cold War context which paved the way for James Bond’s high-tech thrills.

Why do I do it?

Roger Cobb (William Katt)'s dead Vietnam buddy Big Ben (Richard Moll) is pissed off in Steve Miner's House (1985)

It’s a puzzling personal aberration, but I continue to find myself drawn to bad movies because they become available on disk in attractive packages. This time out, Arrow’s substantial box set of the four features in the completely disposable House franchise.

Pandemic viewing, Part Three

A killer vehicle stalks the heroine of George Bowers' The Hearse (1980)

Social isolation and “working from home” mean a lot of time for movie-watching … and the volume far outstrips my ability to say anything substantive about many of the films I do watch: so here I mostly just acknowledge what I’ve been viewing in the past 4-6 weeks. Part three of four.

Year End 2019

Ahmad (Babak Ahmadpour) searches for his friend in an unfamiliar village in Abbas Kiarostami's Where is the Friend's House? (1987)

The usual year-end round-up – not necessarily the best movies or disks, but some of the ones I most enjoyed, from high art to entertaining trash. The sheer range of what’s available should lay to rest any lingering rumours about the demise of physical media.